Summary: Trouble strikes us all at times, and often out of the blue. Do we press the panic button, ot trust that God is with us in the storm?
A tale of two acorns:
Two acorns fell on the earth. One was in open ground; the other in the middle of a dense forest. The acorn in the open ground produced a sapling as its roots began to grow. For a while the growth was held back as the root system developed going deep into the soil and round hidden rocks. The oak then grew upward into eventually, a majestic strong tree. The winter gales howled through its upper branches each year, but these served only to make the bark and the timber stronger. The acorn in the forest produced a sapling, but stifled by the sunless, windless airless environment, it remained just that- a sapling which eventually withered away.
This is a kind of parable, if you will, of how God designs things to grow. We do not reach our full potential if we remain in an over-protected, over-sheltered environment. We grow into a strong person as we have freedom; as we are exposed to the trials and storms of life-provided always that we have a well-developed root.
So it was that Jesus saw to it that his disciples grew as disciples by letting them grow in freedom and exposed to life’s storms. Today’s gospel reading from Mark tells of an instance when he allowed them to be exposed to a particularly violent and literally physical storm. The Sea of Galilee is particularly renowned for the violent storms which from time to time descend on it from the surrounding mountains- and anyone with any experience of mountains will know just how suddenly mountain weather can change. American Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe in dealing with this incident tells of how he once asked an Israeli tour guide if he had ever been in such a storm. The guide threw his hands up, shook his head and said, “I never want to be in one like it again”. The psalmist describes a storm at sea particularly vividly:
Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on mighty waters.
They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.
For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted up the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end
So it was with the disciples. Trouble had struck; disaster was at hand- and Jesus is fast asleep. Didn’t he even care? “Help, master”. And of course he helped; he stilled the storm with his command and then said “Why did you have so little faith?”. True they had heard his teaching, they had seen him cure the sick and cast out demons. Yet this- well this was different! And he was fast asleep! I suspect we probably feel a touch of sympathy for those disciples! Wasn’t it a bit hard?
But: What about us? What about you? What about me? How do we react when trouble strikes? Where do we turn? Or don’t we know where to turn. Trouble has the knack of coming out of the blue; like a lightning-bolt out of a clear, blue sky. If life’s running smoothly at the moment- will it be in a year’s time; in a month’s time; even tomorrow? If I can hearken back to the oak trees: Jesus wants us to have learned from the storms of life we’ve already experienced. And he wants us to have roots firmly in him. You see, those disciples had heard his teaching. They had seen him heal the sick. They had seen him cast out demons. Yet were these faith-lessons just a kind of academic lesson? They were about to get the first real-life test. Their faith was to be tested where the rubber hit the road- to mix the analogy! And we do need those lessons and to learn from them, so that when trouble strikes we don’t immediately press the panic button. There are other reactions we can make which can equally expose our lack of faith.